[from Rhys Celtic Folklore,1901]
THE last chapter is hardly such as to call for a recapitulation of its principal contents, and I venture to submit instead of any such repetition an abstract of some very pertinent notes on it by Miss M. G. W. Peacock, who compares with the folklore of the Isle of Man the old beliefs which survive in Lincolnshire among the descendants of Norse ancestors 1. She was attracted by the striking affinity which she noticed between them, and she is doubtless right in regarding that affinity as due in no small degree to the Scandinavian element present in the population alike of Man and the East of England. She is, however, not lavish of theory, but gives us interesting items of information from an intimate acquaintance with the folklore of the district of which she undertakes to speak, somewhat in the following order:
1. Whether the water-bull still inhabits the streams of Lincolnshire she regards as doubtful, but the deep pools formed, she says, by the action of the downflowing water at the bends of the country becks are still known as bull-holes.
2. As to the glashtyn, or water-horse, she remarks that the tatter-foal, tatter-colt, or shag-foal, as he is variously called, is still to be heard of, although his visits take place less often than before the fens and carrs were drained and the open fields and commons enclosed. She describes the tatter-foal as a goblin of the shape and appearance of a small horse or yearling foal in his rough, unkempt coat. He beguiles lonely travellers with his numberless tricks, one of which is to lure them to a stream, swamp, or water-hole. When he has succeeded he vanishes with a long outburst of mockery, half neigh, half human laughter.
3. The fenodyree, one is told, has in Lincolnshire a cousin, but he is diminutive; and, like the Yorkshire Hob or Robin Round-Cap, and the Danish Niss, he is used to befriend the house in which he dwells. The story of his driving the farmer's sheep home is the same practically as in the Isle of Man, even to the point of bringing in with them the little grey sheep, as he called the fine hare that had given him more trouble than all the rest of the flock : see pp. 286-7 above.
4. The story of this manikin's clothing differs considerably from that of the fenodyree. The farmer gives him in gratitude for his services a linen shirt every New Year's Eve; and this went on for years, until at last the farmer thought a hemp shirt was good enough to give him. When the clock struck twelve at midnight the manikin raised an angry wail, saying
Harden, harden, harden hemp
I will neither grind nor stamp !
Had you given me linen gear,
I would have served you many a year!
He was no more seen or heard: he vanished for ever. The Cornish counterpart of this brownie reasons in the opposite way; for when, in gratitude for his help in threshing, a new suit of clothes is given him, he hurries away, crying 2 :
Pisky new coat, and pisky new hood,
Pisky now will do no more good.
Here, also, one should compare William Nicholson's account of the brownie of Blednoch 3, in Galloway, who wore next to no clothing
Roun' his hairy form there was naething seen,
But a philabeg o' the rushes green.
So he was driven away for ever by a newly married wife wishing him to wear an old pair of her husband's breeches:
But a new-made wife, fu' o' rippish freaks,
Fond o' a' things feat for the first five weeks,
Laid a mouldy pair o' her ain man's breeks
By the brose o' Aiken-drum.
Let the learned decide, when they convene,
What spell was him and the breeks between
For frae that day forth he was nae mair seen,
And sair missed was Aiken-drum !
The only account which I have been able to find of a Welsh counterpart will be found in Bwca'r Trwyn, in chapter x : he differs in some important respects from the fenodyree and the brownie.
5. A twig of the rowan tree, or wicken, as it is called, was effective against all evil things, including witches. It is useful in many ways to guard the welfare of the household, and to preserve both the live stock and the crops, while placed on the churn it prevents any malign influence from retarding the coming of the butter. I may remark that Celts and Teutons seem to have been generally pretty well agreed as to the virtues of the rowan tree. Bits of iron also are lucky against witches.
6. Fairies are rare, but witches and wizards abound, and some of them have been supposed to change themselves into dogs to worry sheep and cattle, or into toads to poison the swine's troughs. But they do not seem to change themselves into hares, as in Man and other Celtic lands.
7. Witchcraft, says Miss Peacock, is often hereditary, passing most frequently from mother to daughter; but when a witch has no daughter her power may appear in a son, and then revert to the female line. This appears far more natural than the Manx belief in its passing from father to daughter and from daughter to son. But another kind of succession is mentioned in the Welsh Triads, i. 32, ii. 20, iii. 90, which speak of Math ab Mathonwy teaching his magic to Gwydion, who as his sister's son was to succeed him in his kingdom; and of a certain Rhudlwm Dwarf teaching his magic to Colt, son of Coltfrewi, his nephew. Both instances seem to point to a state of society which did not reckon paternity but only birth.
8. Only three years previous to Miss Peacock's writing an old man died, she says, who had seen blood drawn from a witch because she had, as was supposed, laid a spell on a team of horses: as soon as she was struck so as to bleed the horses and their load were free to go on their way again. Possibly no equally late instance could be specified in the Isle of Man: see p. 296 above.
9. Traces of animal sacrifice may still be found in Lincolnshire, for the heart of a small beast, or of a bird, is necessary, Miss Peacock says, for the efficient performance of several counter-charms, especially in torturing a witch by the reversal of her spells, and warding off evil from houses or other buildings. Apparently Miss Peacock has not heard of so considerable a victim as a sheep or a calf being sacrificed, as in the Isle of Man, but the objects of the sacrifices may be said to be the same.
10. Several pin and rag wells are said to exist in Lincolnshire, their waters being supposed to possess healing virtues, especially as regards eye ailments.
11 Love-spells and prognostications are mentioned, some of them as belonging to Allhallows, as they do partly in the Isle of Man: she mentions the making of dumb cake, and the eating of the salt herring, followed by dreams of the future husband bringing the thirsting lass drink in a jug, the quality of which indicates the bearer's position in life. But other Lincolnshire practices of the kind seem to oscillate between Allhallows and St. Mark's Eve, while gravitating decidedly towards the latter date. Here it is preferable to give Miss Peacock's own words:-' Professor Rhys' mention of the footmark in the ashes reminds me of a love-spell current in the Wapentake of Manley in North Lincolnshire. Properly speaking, it should be put in practice on St. Mark's E'en, that eerie spring-tide festival when those who are skilled may watch the church porch and learn who will die in the ensuing twelvemonth; but there is little doubt that the charm is also used at Hallow E'en, and at other suitable seasons of the year. The spell consists in riddling ashes on the hearthstone, or beans on the floor of the barn, with proper ceremonies and at the proper time, with the result that the girl who works her incantation correctly finds the footprint of the man she is to marry clearly marked on the sifted mass the following morning. It is to be supposed that the spirit of the lover is responsible for the mark, as, according to another folk-belief, any girl who watches her supper on St. Mark's E'en will see the spirit of the man she will wed come into the room at midnight to partake of the food provided. The room must be one with the door and windows in different walls, and both must be open. The spirit comes in by the door (and goes out by the window ?). Each girl who undertakes to keep watch must have a separate supper and a separate candle, and all talking is to end before the clock goes twelve, for there must not be any speaking before the spirits. From these superstitions, and from the generally received idea that the spirits of all the parishioners are to be observed entering the church on St. Mark's E'en, it may be inferred that the Manx footprint is made by the wraith of the person doomed to death.' Compare pp. 318-9 above.
What Miss Peacock alludes to as watching the church porch was formerly well known in Wales 4, and may be illustrated from a district so far east as the Golden Valley, in Herefordshire, by the following story told me in 1892 by Mrs. Powell of Dorstone, on the strength of what she had learnt from her mother-in-law, the late Mrs. Powell, who was a native of that parish:
'On Allhallows Eve at midnight, those who are bold enough to look through the church windows will see the building lighted with an unearthly light, and the pulpit occupied by his Satanic majesty clothed in a monk's habit. Dreadful anathemas are the burden of his preaching, and the names of those who in the coming year are to render up their souls may be heard by those who have courage to listen. A notorious evil liver, Jack of France, once by chance passed the church at this awful moment: looking in he saw the lights and heard the voice, and his own name in the horrid list; and, according to some versions of the story, he went home to die of fright. Others say that he repented and died in good repute, and so cheated the evil one of his prey.' I have no list of places in Wales and its marches which have this sort of superstition associated with them, but it is my impression that they are mostly referred to Allhallows, as at Dorstone, and that where that is not the case they have been shifted to the beginning of the year as at present reckoned; for in Celtic lands, at least, they seem to have belonged to what was reckoned the beginning of the year. The old Celtic year undoubtedly began at Allhallows, and the day next in importance after the Calends of Winter (in Welsh Calangdeaf) was, among the Celts, the beginning of the summer half of the year, or the Calends of May (in Welsh Caldnmai), which St. Mark's Eve approaches too nearly for us to regard it as accidental. With this modified agreement between the Lincolnshire date and the Celtic one contrast the irreconcilable English date of St. John's Eve; and see Tylor's Primitive Culture, i. 440, where one reads as follows of 'the well-known superstition,' ' that fasting watchers on St. John's Eve may see the apparitions of those doomed to die during the year come with the clergyman to the church door and knock; these apparitions are spirits who come forth from their bodies, for the minister has been noticed to be much troubled in his sleep while his phantom was thus engaged, and when one of a party of watchers fell into a sound sleep and could not be roused, the others saw his apparition knock at the church door.' With an unerring instinct for the intelligent colligation of facts, Miss Peacock finds the nearest approach to the yearly review of the moritures, if I may briefly so call them, in the wraith's footprint in the ashes. Perhaps a more systematic examination of Manx folklore may result in the discovery of a more exact parallel.
For want of knowing where else to put it, I may mention here in reference to the dead, a passage which has been copied for me by my friend Mr. Gwenogvryn Evans, from Manuscript 163 in the Peniarth Collection. I understand it to be of the earlier part of the sixteenth century, and p. 10 has the following passage -
Yn yr ynys honn [Manaw] y kair gaveled liw dydbobyl a vvessynt veirw / Rrai gwedi tori penav / eratV gwedi torri i haelode / Ac os dieithred a cfissyfynt i gaveled hwynt / Sengi ar draed gwyr or tir ac velfy hwyni a gaent weled yr hyn a welssynt hwyntav.
'In this island [Man] one beholds in the light of day people who have died, some with their heads cut off and others with their limbs cut off. And if strangers desire to see them, they have to stand on the feet of the natives of the land, and in that way they would see what the latter had seen.'
A similar instance of the virtue of standing on the feet of another person has been mentioned in reference to the farmer of Deunant, at p. 230 above; the foot, however, on which he had to stand in order to get a glimpse of the fairy world, was a fairy's own foot.
Lastly, the passage in the Peniarth Manuscript has something more to say of the Isle of Man, as follows :Mawr oed arfer o swynion a chyvared ion gynt yn yr ynys honn / Kanys gwraged- a vyc ynt yno yn gwnevthvr gwynt i longwyr gwedir gav mewn tri chwlm o edav aphan vai eissie gwynt arnynt dattod kwlm or edav anaynt.
' Great was the practice formerly of spells and sorceries in this island; for there used to be there women making wind for sailors, which wind they confined within three knots made on a thread. And when they had need of wind they would undo a knot of the thread.'
This was written in the sixteenth century, and based probably on Higden's Polychronicon, book 1, chap. xliv (= I. 42-3), but the same practice of wind making goes on to this day, one of the principal practitioners being the woman to whom reference was made at p. 20. She is said to tie the breezes in so many knots which she makes on the purchasing sailor's pocket-handkerchief. This reminds one of the sibyl of Warinsey, or the Island of Guernsey, who is represented by an ancient Norse poet as ' fashioning false prophecies.' See Vigfusson and Powell's Corpus Poeticum Boreale,1. 136; also Mela's first-century account of the virgins of the island of Sena, which runs to the following effect :-' Sena, in the Britannic Sea, opposite the coast of the Osismi, is famous for its oracle of a Gaulish god, whose priestesses, living in the holiness of perpetual virginity, are said to be nine in number. They call them Gallizenae, and they believe them to be endowed with extraordinary gifts to rouse the sea and the wind by their incantations, to turn themselves into whatsoever animal form they may choose, to cure diseases which among others are incurable, to know what is to come and to foretell it. They are, however, devoted to the service of voyagers only who have set out on no other errand than to consult them 5.' It is probable that the sacrosanct 6 inhabitants of the small islands on the coasts of Gaul and Britain had wellnigh a monopoly of the traffic in wind 7.
In the last chapter I made allusion to several wells of greater or less celebrity in the Isle of Man; but I find that I have a few remarks to add. Mr. Arthur Moore, in his book on Manx Surnames and Place-Names, p. 200, mentions a Chibber Unjin, which means the Well of the Ash-tree, and he states that there grew near it 'formerly a sacred ash-tree, where votive offerings were hung.' The ash-tree calls to his mind Scandinavian legends respecting the ash, but in any case one may suppose the ash was not the usual tree to expect by a well in the Isle of Man, otherwise this one would scarcely have been distinguished as the Ashtree Well. The tree to expect by a sacred well is doubtless some kind of thorn, as in the case of Chibber Undin in the parish of Malew. The name means Foundation Well, so called in reference probably to the foundations of an ancient cell, or keeill as it is called in Manx, which lie close by, and are found to measure twenty-one feet long by twelve feet broad. The following is Mr. Moore's account of the well in his book already cited, p. 181 :-'The water of this well is supposed to have curative properties. The patients who came to it, took a mouthful of water, retaining it in their mouths till they had twice walked round the well. They then took a piece of cloth from a garment which they had worn, wetted it with the water from the well, and hung it on the hawthorn tree which grew there. When the cloth had rotted away, the cure was supposed to be effected.'
I visited the spot a few years ago in the company of the Rev. E. B. Savage of St. Thomas' Parsonage, Douglas, and we found the well nearly dried up in consequence of the drainage of the field around it; but the remains of the old cell were there, and the thorn bush had strips of cloth or calico tied to its branches.
We cut off one, which is now in the Pitt-Rivers Museum at Oxford. The account Mr. Savage had of the ritual observed at the well differed a little from that given by Mr. Moore, especially in the fact that it made the patient who had been walking round the well with water from the well in his mouth, empty that water finally into a rag from his clothing: the rag was then tied to a branch of the thorn. It does not appear that the kind of tree mattered much; nay, a tree is not, it seems to me, essential. At any rate, St. Maughold's Well has no tree growing near it now; but it is right to say, that when Mr. Kermode and I visited it, we could find no rags left near the spot, nor indeed could we expect to find any, as there was nothing to which they might be tied on that windy headland. The absence of the tree does not, however, prove that the same sort of ritual was not formerly observed at St. Maughold's Well as at Chibber Undin; and here I must mention another well which I have visited in the island more than once. It is on the side of Bradda Hill, a little above the village of Bradda, and in the direction of Fleshwick : I was attracted to it by the fact that it had, as I had been told by Mr. Savage, formerly an old cell or keeill near it, and the name of the saint to which it belonged may probably be gathered from the name of the well, which, in the Manx of the south of the island, is Chibbyrt Valtane, pronounced approximately Chüvurt Voltåne or Oldåne. The personal name would be written in modern Manx in its radical form as Boltane, and if it occurred in the genitive in Ogam inscriptions I should expect to find it written Boltagni or Baltagni 8. It is, however, unknown to me, though to be placed possibly by the side of the name of the saint after whom the parish of Santon is called in the south-east of the island. This is pronounced in Manx approximately 9 Santane or Sandane, and would have yielded an early inscriptional nominative SANCTANVS, which, in fact, occurs on an old stone near lLandudno on the Welsh coast: see some notes of mine in point in the Archaologia Cambrensis, '1897, pp. 140-2. To return to the well, it would seem to have been associated with an old cell, but it has no tree growing by. Mr. Savage and I were told, nevertheless, that a boy who had searched the well a short time previously had got some coins out of it, quite recent ones, consisting of halfpennies or pennies, so far as I remember. On my observing to one of the neighbours that I saw no rags there, I was assured that there had been some; and, on my further saying that I saw no tree there to which they could be tied, I was told that they used to be attached to the brambles, which grew there in great abundance. Thus it appears that, in the Isle of Man at any rate, a tree to bear the rags was not an essential adjunct of a holy well.
Before leaving these well superstitions the reader may wish to know how they were understood in Ireland not long ago: so I venture to quote a passage from a letter by the late Mr. W. C. Borlase on Rag Offerings and Primitive Pilgimages in Ireland, as follows:
'Among the MSS. of the late Mr. Windele, of Cork, ... I find a passage which cannot fail to interest students of folk-lore. It relates to the custom of affixing shreds of rag to the hawthorn tree, which almost invariably stands by the brink of the typical Irish " holy well," and it gives us the meaning of the custom as understood, some half century since, by the inhabitants of certain localities in the province of Munster. The idea is, says the writer, that the putting up these rags is a putting away of the evils impending or incurred by sin, an act accompanied by the following ritual words Air impide an Tiarna mo chuid leinis do fhagaint air an ait so; i. e. By the intercession of the Lord I leave my portion of illness on this place. These words, he adds, should be uttered by whoever performs the round, and they are, no doubt, of extreme antiquity. Mr. Windele doubtless took down the words as he heard them locally pronounced, though, to be correct, for Tiarna should be read Tzgerna ; for teinis, tinneas ; and for fhagaint, fhagaim 10.'
From the less known saints Boltane and Santane I wish to pass to the mention of a more famous one, namely, St. Catherine, and this because of a fair called after her, and held on the sixth day of December at the village of Colby in the south of the island. When I heard of this fair in 1888, it was in temporary abeyance on account of a lawsuit respecting the plot of ground on which the fair is wont to be held; but I was told that it usually begins with a procession, in which a live hen is carried about: this is called St. Catherine's hen. The next day the hen is carried about dead and plucked, and a rhyme pronounced at a certain point in the proceedings contemplates the burial of the hen, but whether that ever takes place I know not. It runs thus :
Kiark Catrina marroo: Catherine's hen is dead
Gows yn kione as goyms ny cassyn, The head take thou and I the feet,
As ver mayd ee fo'n thalloo. We shall put her under the ground.
A man who is found to be not wholly sober after the fair is locally said to have plucked a feather from the hen (T'eh er goaill fedjag ass y chiark) ; so it would seem that there must be such a scramble to get at the hen, and to take part in the plucking, that it requires a certain amount of drink to allay the thirst of the over zealous devotees of St. Catherine. But why should this ceremony be associated with St. Catherine ? and what were the origin and meaning of it ? These are questions on which I should be glad to have light shed.
Manx has a word quaail (Irish comhdhail, meaning a 'meeting,' and from it we have a derivative qualtaagh or qualtagh, meaning, according to Kelly's Dictionary, 'the first person or creature one meets going from home,' whereby the author can have only meant the first met by one who is going from home. Kelly goes on to add that 'this person is of great consequence to the superstitious, particularly to women the first time they go out after lying-in.' Cregeen, in his Dictionary, defines the qualtagh as 'the first person met on New Year's Day, or on going on some new work, &c.' Before proceeding to give the substance of my notes on the qualtagh of the present day I may as well finish with Cregeen, for he adds the following information:'A company of young lads or men generally went in old times on what they termed the qualtagh, at Christmas or New Year's Day, to the houses of their more wealthy neighbours ; some one of the company repeating in an audible voice the following rhyme :
Ollick ghennal erriu as blern feer vie,
Sehll as slaynt da'n slave lught thie;
Bea as gennallys eu lno ry-cheilley,
Shee as graih eddyr mrane as deiney;
Cooid as cowryn, stock as stoyr,
Palchey phuddase, as skaddan dy-liooar,
Arran as caashey, eeym as roayrt;
Baase, myr lugh, avns uhllin ny soalt;
Cadley sauchey tra vees shiu ny lhie,
As feeackle y jargan, nagh bee dy mie.'
It may be loosely translated as follows :
A merry Christmas, a happy new year,
Long life and health to all the household here.
Food and mirth to you dwelling together,
Peace and love to all, men and women ;
Wealth and distinction, stock and store,
Potatoes enough, and herrings galore;
Bread and cheese, butter and gravy;
Die like a mouse in a barn or haggard ;
In safety sleep while you lie to rest,
And by the fleas tooth be not distressed.
At present New Year's Day is the time when the qualtagh is of general interest, and in this case he is, outside the members of one's own household, practically the first person one sees on the morning of that day, whether that person meets one out of doors or comes to one's house. The following is what I have learnt by inquiry as to the qualtagh : all are agreed that he must not be a woman or girl, and that he must not be spaagagh or splay footed, while a woman from the parish of Marown told me that he must not have red hair. The prevalent belief, however, is that he should be a dark haired man or boy, and it is of no consequence how rough his appearance may be, provided he be black haired. However, I was told by one man in Rushen that the qualtagh or 'first-foot' need not be a black haired person: he must be a man or boy. But this less restricted view is not the one held in the central and northern parts of the island, so far as I could ascertain. An English lady living in the neighbourhood of Castletown told me that her son, whom I know to be, like his mother, a blond, not being aware what consequences might be associated with his visit, called at a house in Castletown on the morning of New Year's Day, and he chanced to be the qualtagh. The mistress of the house was horrified, and expressed to the English lady her anticipation of misfortunes; and as it happened that one of the children of the house died in the course of the year, the English lady has been reminded of it since. Naturally the association of these events are not pleasant to her; but, so far as I can remember, they date only some eight or nine years ago. 11.
By way of bringing Wales into comparison with Man, I may mention that, when I was a very small boy, I used to be sent very early on New Year's morning to call 'on an old uncle of mine, because, as I was told, I should be certain to receive a calennig or a calends' gift from him, but on no account would my sister be allowed to go, as he would only see a boy on such an occasion as that. I do not recollect anything being said as to the colour of one's hair or the shape of one's foot; but that sort of negative evidence is of very little value, as the qualtagh was fast passing out of consideration.
The preference here given to a boy over a girl looks like one of the widely spread superstitions which rule against the fair sex; but, as to the colour of the hair, I should be predisposed to think that it possibly rests on racial antipathy, long ago forgotten; for it might perhaps be regarded as going back to a time when the dark haired race reckoned the Aryan of fair complexion as his natural enemy, the very sight of whom brought with it thoughts calculated to make him unhappy and despondent. If this idea proved to be approximately correct, one might suggest that the racial distinction in question referred to the struggles between the inhabitants of Man and their Scandinavian conquerors; but to my thinking it is just as likely that it goes much further back.
Lastly, what is one to say with regard to the spaagagh or splay footed person, now more usually defined as flat footed or having no instep? I have heard it said in the south of the island that it is unlucky to meet a spaagagh in the morning at any time of the year, and not on New Year's Day alone; but this does not help us in the attempt to find the genesis of this belief. If it were said that it was unlucky to meet a deformed person, it would look somewhat more natural; but why fix on the flat footed especially? For my part I have not been trained to distinguish flat footed people, so I do not recollect noticing any in the Isle of Man; but, granting there maybe a small proportion of such people in the island, does it not seem strange that they should have their importance so magnified as this superstition would seem to imply ? I must confess that I cannot understand it, unless we have here also some supposed racial characteristic, let us say greatly exaggerated. To explain myself I should put it that the non-Aryan aborigines were a small people of great agility and nimbleness, and that their Aryan conquerors moved more slowly and deliberately, whence the former, of springier movements, might come to nickname the latter the flat footed. It is even conceivable that there was some amount of foundation for it in fact. If I might speak from my own experience, I might mention a difficulty I have often had with shoes of English make, namely, that I have always found them, unless made to measure, apt to have their instep too low for me. It has never occurred to me to buy ready-made shoes in France or Germany, but I know a lady as Welsh as I am, who has often bought shoes in France, and her experience is, that it is much easier for her to get shoes there to fit her than in England, and for the very reason which I have already suggested, namely, that the instep in English shoes is lower than in French ones.
Again, I may mention that one day last term 12, having to address a meeting of Welsh undergraduates on folklore, I ventured to introduce this question. They agreed with me that English shoes did not, as a rule, fit Welsh feet, and this because they are made too low in the instep: I ought to have said that they all agreed except one undergraduate, who held his peace. He is a tall man, powerful in the football field, but of no dark complexion, and I have never dared to look in the direction of his feet since, lest he should catch me carrying my comparisons to cruel extremes. Perhaps the flatness of the feet of the one race is not emphasized so much as the height of the instep in those of the other. At any rate I find this way of looking at the question somewhat countenanced by a journalist who refers his readers to Wm. Henderson's notes on the Folklore of the Northern Counties, P. 74. The passage relates more particularly to Northumberland, and runs as follows:-'In some districts, however, special weight is attached to the " firstfoot" being that of a person with a high-arched instep, a foot that "water runs under." A flat-footed person would bring great ill-luck for the coming year.'
These instances do not warrant the induction that Celts are higher in the instep than Teutons, and that they have inherited that characteristic from the nonAryan element in their ancestry. Perhaps the explanation is, at least in part, that the dwellers in hilly regions tend to be more springy and to have higher insteps than the inhabitants of flatter lands. The statement of Dr. Karl Blind on this point does not help one to a decision when he speaks as follows in Folk-Lore for 1892, p. 89:-'As to the instep, I can speak from personal experience. Almost every German finds that an English shoemaker makes his boots not high enough in the instep. The northern Germans (I am from the south) have perhaps slightly flatter feet than the southern Germans.' The first part of the comparison is somewhat of a surprise to me, but not so the other part, that the southern Germans inhabiting a hillier country, and belonging to a different race, may well be higher in the instep than the more northern speakers of the German language. But on the whole the more one examines the qualtagh, the less clearly one sees how he can be the representative of a particular race. More data possibly would enable one to arrive at greater probability.
There is one other question which I should like to ask before leaving the qualtagh, namely, as to the relation of the custom of New Year's gifts to the belief in the qualtagh. I have heard it related in the Isle of Man that women have been known to keep indoors on New Year's Day until the qualtagh comes, which sometimes means their being prisoners for the greater part of the day, in order to avoid the risk of first meeting one who is not of the right sex and complexion. On the other hand, when the qualtagh is of the right description, considerable fuss is made of him ; to say the least, he has to accept food and drink, possibly more permanent gifts. Thus a tall, black haired native of Kirk Michael described to me how he chanced on New Year's Day, years ago, to turn into a lonely cottage in order to light his pipe, and how he found he was the gnaltagh : he had to sit down to have food, and when he went away it was with a present and the blessings of the family. Now New Year's Day is the time for gifts in Wales, as shown by the name for them, calennig, which is derived from clan, the Welsh form of the Latin calends,, New Year's Day being in Welsh Y Calan, 'the Calends.' The same is the day for gifts in Scotland and in Ireland, except in so far as Christmas boxes have been making inroads from England: I need not add that the Jour de l'An is the day for gifts also in France. My question then is this : Is there any essential connexion of origin between the institution of New Year's Day gifts and the belief in the first-foot ?
Now that it has been indicated what sort of a qualtagh it is unlucky to have, I may as well proceed to mention the other things which I have heard treated as unlucky in the island. Some of them scarcely require to be noticed, as there is nothing specially Manx about them, such as the belief that it is unlucky to have the first glimpse of the new moon through glass. That is a superstition which is, I believe, widely spread, and, among other countries, it is quite familiar in Wales, where it is also unlucky to see the moon for the first time through a hedge or over a house. What this means I cannot guess, unless it be that it was once considered one's duty to watch the first appearance of the new moon from the highest point in the landscape of the district in which one dwelt. Such a point would in that case become the chief centre of a moon worship now lost in oblivion.
It is believed in Man, as it used to be in Wales and Ireland, that it is unlucky to disturb antiquities, especially old burial places and old churches. This superstition is unfortunately passing awayin all three countries, but you still hear of it, especially in the Isle of Man, mostly after mischief has been done. Thus a good Manx scholar told me how a relative of his in the Ronnag, a small valley near South Barrule, had carted away the earth from an old burial ground on his farm and used it as manure for his fields, and how his beasts died afterwards. The narrator said he did not know whether there was any truth in it, but everybody believed that it was the reason why the cattle died; and so did the farmer himself at last: so he desisted from completing his disturbance of the old site. It is possibly for a similar reason that a house in ruins is seldom pulled down, or the materials used for other buildings. Where that has been done misfortunes have ensued; at any rate, I have heard it said so more than once. I ought to have stated that the non-disturbance of antiquities in the island is quite consistent with their being now and then shamefully neglected as elsewhere. This is now met by an excellent statute recently enacted by the House of Keys for the preservation of the public monuments of the island.
Of the other and more purely Manx superstitions I may mention one which obtains among the Peel fishermen of the present day: no boat is willing to be third in the order of sailing out from Peel harbour to the fisheries. So it sometimes happens that after two boats have departed, the others remain watching each other for days, each hoping that somebody else may be reckless enough to break through the invisible barrier of' bad luck.' I have often asked for an explanation of this superstition, but the only intelligible answer I have had was that it has been observed that the third boat has done badly several years in succession ; but I am unable to ascertain how far that represents the fact. Another of the unlucky things is to have a white stone in the boat, even in the ballast, and for that I never could get any explanation at all ; but there is no doubt as to the fact of this superstition, and I may illustrate it from the case of a clergyman's son on the west side, who took it into his head to go out with some fishermen several days in succession. They chanced to be unsuccessful each time, and they gave their Jonah the nickname of Clagh Vane, or 'White Stone.' Now what can be the origin of this tabu ? It seems to me that if the Manx had once a habit of adorning the graves of the departed with white stones, that circumstance would be a reasonable explanation of the superstition in question. Further, it is quite possible they did, and here Manx archmologists could probably help as to the matter of fact. In the absence, however, of information to the point from Man, I take the liberty of citing some relating to Scotland. It comes from Mr. Gomme's presidential address to the Folk-Lore Society: see FolkLore for 1893, pp. 13-4:
' Near Inverary, it is the custom among the fisher-folk, and has been so within the memory of the oldest, to place little white stones or pebbles on the graves of their friends. No reason is now given for the practice, beyond that most potent and delightful of all reasons in the minds of folk-lore students, namely, that it has always been done. Now there is nothing between this modern practice sanctioned by traditional observance and the practice of the stone-age people in the same neighbourhood and in others, as made known to us by their grave-relics. Thus, in a cairn at Achnacrie opened by Dr. Angus Smith, on entering the innermost chamber " the first thing that struck the eye was a row of quartz pebbles larger than a walnut ; these were arranged on the ledge of the lower granite block of the east side." Near Crinan, at Duncraigaig and at Rudie, the same characteristic was observed, and Canon Greenwell, who examined the cairns, says the pebbles "must have been placed there with some intention, and probably possessed a symbolic meaning."' See also Burghead, by Mr. H. W. Young (Inverness, 1899), p. 1o, where we read that at Burghead the 'smooth white pebbles, sometimes five or seven of them, but never more,' have been usually arranged as crosses on the graves which he has found under the fallen ramparts. Can this be a Christian superstition with the white stones of the Apocalypse as its foundation?
Here I may mention a fact which I do not know where else to put, namely, that a fisherman on his way in the morning to the fishing, and chancing to pass by the cottage of another fisherman who is not on friendly terms with him, will pluck a straw from the thatch of the latter's dwelling. Thereby he is supposed to rob him of his luck in the fishing for that day. One would expect to learn that the straw from the thatch served as' the subject of an incantation directed against the owner of the thatch. I have never heard anything suggested to that effect; but I conclude that the plucking of the straw is only a partial survival of what was once a complete ritual for bewitching one's neighbour, unless getting possession of the straw was supposed to carry with it possession of everything belonging to the other man, including his luck in fishing for that day.
Owing to my ignorance as to the superstitions of other fishermen than those of the Isle of Man, I will not attempt to classify the remaining instances to be mentioned, such as the unluckiness of mentioning a horse or a mouse on board a fishing-boat: I seem, however, to have heard of similar tabus among Scottish fishermen; and, according to Dr. Blind, Shetland fishermen will not mention a church or a clergyman when out at sea, but use quite other names for both when on board a ship (Folk-Lore for 1892, p. 89). Novices in the Manx fisheries have to learn not to point to anything with one finger: they have to point with the whole hand or not at all. This looks as if it belonged to a code of rules as to the use of the hand, such as prevail among the Neapolitans and other peoples whose chief article of faith is the belief in malign influences : see Mr. Elworthy's volume on The Evil Eye.
Whether the Manx are alone in thinking it unlucky to lend salt from one boat to another when they are engaged in the fishing, I know not: such lending would probably be inconvenient, but why it should be unlucky, as they believe it to be, does not appear. The first of May is a day on which it is unlucky to lend anything, and especially to give any one fire 13. This looks as if it pointed back to some druidic custom of lighting all fires at that time from a sacred hearth, but, so far as is known, this only took place at the beginning of the other half-year, namely, Sauin or Allhallows, which is sometimes rendered into Manx as Laa 'll mooar ny Saintsh, 'the Day of the great Feast of the Saints.'
Lastly, I may mention that it is unlucky to say that you are very well: at any rate, I infer that it is regarded so, as you will never get a Manxman to say that he is fees vie, 'very well.' He usually admits that he is 'middling'; and if by any chance he risks a stronger adjective, he hastens to qualify it by adding 'now,' or 'just now,' with an emphasis indicative of his anxiety not to say too much. His habits of speech point back to a time when the Manx mind was dominated by the fear of awaking malignant influences in the spirit world around him. This has had the effect of giving the Manx peasant's character a tinge of reserve and suspicion, which makes it difficult to gain his confidence: his acquaintance has, therefore, to be cultivated for some time before you can say that you know the workings of his heart. The pagan belief in a Nemesis has doubtless passed away, but not without materially affecting the Manx idea of a personal devil. Ever since the first allusion made in my hearing by Manxmen to the devil, I have been more and more deeply impressed that for them the devil is a much more formidable being than Englishmen or Welshmen picture him. He is a graver and, if I may say so, a more respectable being, allowing no liberties to be taken with his name, so you had better not call him a devil, the evil one, or like names, for his proper designation is Noid ny Hanmey, 'the Enemy of the Soul,' and in ordinary Anglo-Manx conversation he is commonly called 'the Enemy of Souls.' I well remember getting one day into a conversation with an old soldier in the south of the island. He was, as I soon discovered, labouring under a sort of theological monomania, and his chief question was concerning the Welsh word for 'the Enemy of Souls.' I felt at once that I had to be careful, and that the reputation of my countrymen depended on how I answered. As I had no name anything like the one he used for the devil, I explained to him that the Welsh, though not a great nation, were great students of theology, and that they had by no means neglected the great branch of it known as satanology. In fact that study, as I went on to say, had left its impress on the Welsh language: on Sunday the ministers of all denominations, the deacons and elders, and all self-respecting congregations spoke of the devil trisyllabically as diafol, while on the other days of the week everybody called him more briefly and forcibly diawl, except bards concocting an awdl for an Eistedfod, where the devil must always be called diajl, and excepting also sailors, farm servants, postboys and colliers, together with country gentlemen learning Welsh to address their wouldn't-be constituents-for all these the regulation form was jåwl, with an English j. Thus one could, I pointed out to him, fix the social standing of a Welshman by the way he named 'the Enemy of Souls,' as well as appreciate the superiority of Welsh over Greek, seeing that Welsh, when it borrowed bta,3oXog from Greek, quadrupled it, while Greek remained sterile. He was so profoundly impressed that I never was able to bring his attention back to the small fry, spiritually speaking, of the Isle of Man, to wit, the fairies and the fenodyree, or even the witches and the charmers, except that he had some reserve of faith in witches, since the witch of Endor was in the Bible and had ascribed to her a 'terr'ble' great power of raising spirits: that, he thought, must be true. I pointed out to him that a fenodyree (see p. 288) was also mentioned in his Bible: this display of ready knowledge on my part made a deep impression on his mind.
The Manx are, as a rule, a sober people, and highly religious; as regards their tenets, they are mostly members of the Church of England or Wesleyan Methodists, or else both, which is by no means unusual. Religious phrases are not rare in their ordinary conversation; in fact, they struck me as being of more frequent occurrence than in Wales, even the Wales of my boyhood; and here and there this fondness for religious phraseology has left its traces on the native vocabulary. Take, for example, the word for 'anybody, a person, or human being,' which Cregeen writes py'agh or p'agh : he rightly regards it as the colloquial pronunciation of peccagh, ' a sinner.' So, when one knocks at a Manx door and calls out, Vel p'agh sthie? he literally asks, ' Is there any sinner indoors ?' The question has, however, been explained to me, with unconscious irony, as properly meaning, 'Is there any Christian indoors?' and care is now taken in reading to pronounce the middle consonants of the word peccagh, 'sinner,' so as to distinguish it from the word for a Christian 'anybody': but the identity of origin is unmistakable.
Lastly, the fact that a curse is a species of prayer, to wit, a prayer for evil to follow, is well exemplified in Manx by the same words, gwee 14, plural gweeaghyn, meaning both kinds of prayer. Thus I found myself stumbling several times, in reading through the Psalms in Manx, from not bearing in mind the sinister meaning of these words; for example in Psalm xiv. 6, where we have Ta 'n beeal oc lane dy ghweeaghyn as dy herriuid, which I mechanically construed to mean 'Their mouth is full of praying and bitterness,' instead of 'cursing and bitterness'; and so in other cases, such as Ps. x. 7, and cix. 2'7.
It occurred to me on various occasions to make inquiries as to the attitude of religious Manxmen towards witchcraft and the charmer's vocation. Nobody, so far as I know, accuses them of favouring witchcraft in any way whatsoever; but as to the reality of witches and witchcraft they are not likely to have any doubts so long as they dwell on the Biblical account of the witch of Endor, as I have already mentioned in the case of the old Crimean soldier. Then as to charmers I have heard it distinctly stated that the most religious men are they who have most confidence in charmers and their charms; and a lay preacher whom I know has been mentioned to me as now and then doing a little charming in cases of danger or pressing need. On the whole, I think the charge against religious people of consulting charmers is somewhat exaggerated; but I believe that recourse to the charmer is more usual and more openly had than, for example, in Wales, where those who consult a dyn hyspys or 'wise man' have to do it secretly, and at the risk of being expelled by their co-religionists from the Seiët or 'Society.' There is somewhat in the atmosphere of Man to remind one rather of the Wales of a past generation-Wales as it was at the time when the Rev. Edmund Jones could write a Relation of Apparitions of Spirits in the County of Monmouth and the Principality of Wales, as a book 'designed to confute and to prevent the infidelity of denying the being and apparition of spirits, which tends to irreligion and atheism': see pp. 17q., 195 above.
The Manx peasantry are perhaps the most independent and prosperous in the British Isles; but their position geographically and politically has been favourable to the continuance of ideas not quite up to the level of the latest papers on Darwinism and Evolution read at our Church Congresses in this country. This may be thought to be here wide of the mark; but, after giving, in the previous chapter, specimens of rather ancient superstitions as recently known in the island, it is but right that one should form an idea of the surroundings in which they have lingered into modern times. Perhaps nothing will better serve to brim this home to the reader's mind than the fact, for which there is proof, that old people still living remember men and women clad in white sheets doing penance publicly in the churches of Man.
The following is the evidence which I was able to find, and I may state that I first heard in 1888 of the public penance from Mr. Joughin, who was an aged man and a native of Kirk Bride. He related how a girl named Mary Dick gave an impertinent answer to the clergyman when he was catechizing her class, and how she had to do penance for it at church. She took her revenge on the parson by singing, while attending in a white sheet, louder than everybody else in the congregation. This, unless I am mistaken, Mr. Joughin gave me to understand he had heard from his father. I mentioned the story to a clergyman, who was decidedly of opinion that no one alive now could remember anything about public penance. Not long after, however, I got into conversation with a shoemaker at Kirk Michael, named Dan Kelly, who was nearly completing his eighty-first year. He was a native of Ballaugh, and stated that he remembered many successive occupants of the episcopal see. A long time ago the official called the sumner had, out of spite he said, appointed him to serve as one of the four of the chapter jury. It was, he thought, when he was about twenty-five. During his term of office he saw four persons, of whom two were married men and two unmarried women, doing penance in the parish church of Ballaugh for having illegitimate children. They stood in the alley of the church, and the sumner had to throw white sheets over them; on the fourth Sunday of their penance they stood inside the chancel rails, but not to take the communion. The parson, whose name was Stowell or Stowall, made them thoroughly ashamed of themselves on the fourth Sunday, as one of the men afterwards admitted. Kelly mentioned the names of the women and of one of the men, and he indicated to me some of their descendants as well known in the neighbourhood. I cross-examined him all the more severely, as I had heard the other view of the remoteness of the date. But nothing could shake Kelly, who added that soon after the date of the above mentioned cases the civil functionary, known as the vicar-general, put an end to the chapter jury and to public penance: according to his reckoning the penance he spoke of must have taken place about 1832. Another old man, named Kewley, living now near Kirk Michael, but formerly in the parish of Lezayre, had a similar story. He thinks that he was born in the sixth year of the century, and when he was between eighteen and twenty he saw a man doing public penance, in Lezayre Church, I presume, but I have no decided note on that point. However that may be, he remembered that the penitent, when he had done his penance, had the audacity to throw the white sheet over the sumner, who, the penitent remarked, might now wear it himself, as he had had enough of it. Kewley would bring the date only down to about 1825.
Lastly, I was in the island again in 1891, and spent the first part of the month of April at Peel, where I had conversations with a retired captain who was then about seventy-eight. He is a native of the parish of Dalby, but he was only ' a lump of a boy' when the last couple of immorals were forced to do penance in white sheets at church. He gave me the guilty man's name, and the name of his home in the parish, and both the captain and his daughter assured me that the man had only been dead six or seven years; that is, the penitent seems to have lived till about the year 1884. I may here mention that the parish of Dalby is the subject of many tales, which go to show that its people were more old-fashioned in their ways than those of the rest of the island. It appears to have been the last, also, to be reached by a cart road; and I was amused by a native's description of the men at Methodist meetings in Dalby pulling the tappag, or forelock, at the name of Jesus, while the women ducked a curtsy in a dangerously abrupt fashion. He and his wife appeared to be quite used to it: the husband was an octogenarian named Quirc, who was born on the coast near the low-lying peninsula called the Narbyl, that is to say 'the Tail.'
To return to the public penance, it seems to us in this country to belong, so to say, to ancient history, and it transports us to a state of things which we find it hard to realize. The lapse of years has brought about profounder changes in our greater Isle of Britain than in the smaller Isle of Man, while we ourselves, helpless to escape the pervading influence of those profounder changes, become living instances of the comprehensive truth of the German poet's words,
Ovnnia mutantur, nos et mutanaur in illis.
1 My paper was read before the Folk-Lore Society in April or May, 1891, and Miss Peacock's notes appeared in the journal of the Society in the following December: see pp. 509-13.
2 See Choice Notes, p. 76.
3 See the third edition of Wm. Nicholson's Poetical Works (Castle-Douglas, 1878), PP. 78, 81.
4 See p. 321 above and the references there given; also Howells' Cambrian Superstitions, p. 58.
5 Pomponius Mela De Chorographia, edited by Parthey, iii, chap. 6 (p, 72); see also my Hibbert Lectures, Pp. 195-6, where, however, the identification of the name Sena with that of Sein should be cancelled. Sein seems to be derived from the Breton Se:dhun, otherwise modified into Sizun and Sun see chap. vi below.
6 See my Hibbert Lectures, pp. 195-7; also my Arthurian Legend, pp. 367-8, where a passage in point is cited at length from Plutarch De Defectu Oraculorum, xviii (=the Didot edition of Plutarch's works, iii. 511) ; the substance of it will be found given likewise in chap. viii below.
7 For an allusion to the traffic in winds in Wales see Howells, p. 86, where he speaks as follows:-In Pembrokeshire there was a person commonly known as the cunning man of Pentregethen, who sold winds to the sailors, after the manner of the Lapland witches, and who was reverenced in the neighbourhood in which he dwelt, much more than the divines.'
8 This may turn out to be all wrong; for I learn from the Rev. John Quine, vicar of Malew, in Man, that there is a farm called Balthane or Bolthane south ofBallasalla, and that in the computus (of 1540) of the Abbey Tenants it is called Biulthan. This last, if originally a man's name, would seem to point back to some such a compound as Beo-U1tán. In his Manx Names, p. 138, Mr. Moore suggests the possibility of explaining the name as bwoailtyn, 'folds or pens'; but the accentuation places that out of the question. See also the Lioar Manninagh, iii. 167, where Mr. C. Roeder, referring to the same computus passage, gives the name as Builthan in the boundary inter Cross Jvar Builthan. This would be read by Mr. Quine as inter Cross Ivar et Biulthan, 'between Cross-Ivar and Bolthane.' For the text of the boundary see Johnstone's edition of the Chronicon Manniæ (Copenhagen, 1786), p. 48, and Oliver's Monumenta de Insula Manniæ, vol, i. p. 207 ; see also Mr. Quine's paper on the Boundary of Abbey Lands in the Lioar Manninagh, iii. 422-3
9 I say ' approximately,' as, more strictly speaking, the ordinary pronunciation is Sndæn, almost as one syllable, and from this arises a variant, which is sometimes written Stondane, while the latest English development, regardless of the accentuation of the Anglo-Manx form, which is Santon, pronounced Santn, makes the parish into a St. Ann's ! For the evidence that it was the parish of a St. Sanctdn see Moore's Names, p. 209.
10 The Athenæum for April 1, 1893, P 415. I may here remark that Mr. Borlase's note on do fhagaint is, it seems to me, unnecessary: let do fhagaint stand, and translate, not 'I leave' but ' to leave.' The letter should be consulted for curious matter concerning Croagh Patrick, its pagan stations, cup-markings, &c.
11 Since this paper was read to the Folk-Lore Society a good deal of information of one kind or another has appeared in its journal concerning the first-foot: see more especially Folk-Lore for 1892, pp. 253-64, and for 1893, PP. 309-21.
12 This was written at the beginning of the year 1892.
13' With this compare what Mr. Gomme has to say of a New Year's Day custom observed in Lanarkshire: see p. 633 of the Ethnographic Report referred to at p. 103 above, and compare Henderson, p. 74.
14 Old-fashioned grammarians and dictionary makers are always delighted to handle Mrs. Partington's broom : so Kelly thinks he has done a fine thing by printing guee, ' prayer,' and gwee, ' cursing.'
| Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2006